BOSTON -- The Bruins proved Thursday night that they can win without all the fights. They proved that, in spite of what all the talking heads outside their locker room say about them, they can overcome whatever it is being said about them or the team coming into their building.
And they did it by remaining disciplined.
Discipline comes with keeping the gloves on, even if everyone packing into the TD Garden for a game against the rival Montreal Canadiens thinks they're in for a blood bath.
For these Bruins, keeping the gloves on means not risking any unnecessary injuries. It also means keeping their key offensive pieces on the ice.
And as much as Nathan Horton should have potted twice the number of goals he's had this season -- given all the scoring chances he's had -- he's still one of those key offensive pieces.
A few nights ago against the Devils, Horton was skating around with a purpose. He wanted to be physical. He wanted to run his mouth. He wanted to find a fight. So much so that the officials had to confront him along the half-wall before a faceoff in the offensive zone. They had seen and heard enough.
Horton has proven this season that, while playing a physical game, he can produce. He's also proven that, while playing a physical game, he can hit scoring slumps. With Horton, the two don't necessarily come hand in hand, like it does for his linemate, Milan Lucic.
But on Thursday night, he wasn't looking for a fight. None of the Bruins were. That was the game plan.
"We just went out there, we were focused on doing it right," said coach Claude Julien. "And for us, it's a win that we needed, for all the right reasons, standings and everything else. I think our guys felt good about our performance tonight, and rightfully so."
The Bruins had to feel good about Horton's performance in Thursday night's 7-0 win over the Montreal Canadiens. He played his game. And like it or not, his game is scoring. Nothing more, nothing less. And he played that game in what felt like a playoff atmosphere.
"This is definitely a little bit of a taste," said Horton after the game. "It feels like the playoffs a little bit. It's going to get like that even more.
"Once you get into the playoffs, that's another story," Horton later added. "It feels good right now. Like I said, we'll enjoy it tonight, and it will be in the past tomorrow."
Horton was acquired to put the puck in the net, and he did so twice against the Habs at the TD Garden. And he did it even though this was a game that had all the makings of the Canadiens getting under the skin of a guy like Horton, only because they know that when he's is in the penalty box for a five-minute fighting penalty, that's one offensive threat their goaltender, Carey Price, doesn't have to worry about.
But Horton didn't lose his cool and he stayed on the ice, for the most part.
A high stick caught him above the right eye late in the first period, while the Bruins led 2-0. Horton left the ice to get some repairs done and came back with several stitches, then gave the Bruins a 3-0 lead with 42 seconds left on the four-minute power play that resulted from the high stick that he took.
Horton went hard to the net from the left wing, and Lucic, who had the puck in the left corner, tried to fire a hard pass through the slot to a streaking Zdeno Chara down the right wing. But Canadiens defenseman Paul Mara blocked it, and Horton was right there to knock the loose puck into the empty net.
"It's a tough one I guess," said Horton. "I just got hit with a stick and I came back. It was nice to always get the goal, but to get that other cushion there, it was nice, going into the second.
"I was just going to the net. I was just busting to the net. Lucic was trying to hit the defenseman. I think Chara was back there, and Mara blocked the pass, and it bounced to me, so I just hit it."
Horton added another goal four minutes into the third, finishing a nice David Krejci saucer pace on a 2-on-1 by sniping the top-right corner on price. It was his 22nd goal of the year and gave the B's a commanding 4-0 lead.
Sure, there have been several major dry spells for Horton this season. And given the number of chances he's had all season, asking for more than 22 goals this season isn't asking for too much.
But at least he proved that when the Bruins need him on the ice most, to focus on, as Julien said, "doing it right," Horton will be out there doing what they need him to do.
And that's scoring. Nothing more, nothing less.
Danny Picard is on Twitter at http:twitter.comDannyPicard. You can listen to Danny on hisstreaming radio show I'm Just Sayin' Monday-Friday from9-10 a.m. on CSNNE.com.